If you had asked me two years ago if I’d get up at the crack of dawn and go for a run before the sun was fully up, I’d have said, “Pffft, you’re crazy.” And if you’d told me that I’d enjoy running in the semi-darkness and bone-chilling cold, I’d have said, “Get the straightjacket and a vial of lithium for this person.”
But that whole getting up early and running in the cold semi-darkness is exactly what happened yesterday. And I LOVED it. Okay, not the getting up early part, but I made the best of the situation.
Let me back up a bit. Grace had a school project yesterday, so since it was bulky, I drove both girls to their schools. And since I was going to be out anyway, I decided to gear up for a run and head to the mountains after the girls were deposited at their institutions of learning.
Okay, I did not go to the actual Blue Ridge Mountains for actual running on actual mountain trails and inevitably falling down and getting hurt running; instead, I went nearby, to Monticello. I’ve told you about the Monticello trail before and a section of it was part of the course in the race Grace and I ran last month. End to end, the trail is just shy of two miles and is, at most, a 5% incline, which makes for a nice walk or run. Depending on one’s fitness, the slope is either challenging or not.
It was in the upper 30s Fahrenheit (just above 0 Celsius) when I got to the trailhead. The sun wasn’t fully up yet, so that side of the mountain was still in shadows. There was a brisk wind whipping around me as I got out of the car.
What do I wear to run when it’s cold out? Through plenty of trial and error, I’ve finally hit on the following:
I have to be careful about not wearing too many layers, because I will heat up and get warm and, even on the coldest days, I sweat a lot.
So how was my run? In a word, FANFREAKINGTABULOUS. When I’ve done it in the past — and it has been about a year since I last ran up there — the uphill part has been a major struggle and I hated it pretty much every step of the way. Yesterday? It was great. I wasn’t setting land speed records, but for me, I was hauling ample ass. Downhill was even better. And overall, I ran 2-3 minutes faster per mile than I did the last time I did that run. I was smiling the whole time and even more so afterward as I headed home, full of the rosy afterglow of a great run.
In fact, my running speeds have increased significantly since I had knee surgery and went through rehab. Part of this is because my knee is fixed, part of it is because I worked hard to rehab and get stronger, and part of it is that I am simply a better runner than I was six or nine or 12 months ago.
That’s not to say that I’m fast, because I’m not. Someone I know posted on Facebook last week that she was looking for someone to do 10-12 miles with her on Saturday and that she’d be going at a “slow but steady 9:15 pace.” I had to laugh because a 9-minute mile for me is still a dream. These days, I can run a consistent 12 minute (or just below) pace for up to five miles; beyond that, I start to slow down. But, I’m making progress and I know I’ll get faster.
All this is to say that you can run (or walk) in the cold if you layer properly. And, for those of you bemoaning your slow pace, I understand and I can assure you that you will improve.
On a related running note, a couple weeks ago, I mentioned that I was planning to attempt a route I’d last tried over a year ago. I did it (plus another quarter mile) last Friday — a day that was so bitterly cold and windy that I questioned my sanity. (That is, until I was passed by a guy who was running while wearing shorts, no socks, and NO SHOES. Yep, dude was running barefoot and risking both a nasty cut and frostbite. THAT is deranged.) Anyway, I did the run and felt great, although there was one section that was hardhardhard. At the end, however, I was tired, but not limping and whimpering the way I was the last time I did that route.
Here’s the elevation profile for the route I ran:
See that one highlighted uphill stretch? Imagine that I was mentally bitching and moaning and kvetching and cursing during that part. Verily, I say to ye, that shit was HARD. But I did it and I felt triumphant as I crested the hill and started downward. Jen über alles! And knowing that I’ve done that and didn’t have close encounter with the white light, I know that I can do a lot of things that might seem impossible.
Actually, that should say “It’s a shame for any HUMAN…” because I’m sure there are also plenty of men who don’t know what their bodies are capable of
including changing diapers, scrubbing toilets, and emptying dishwashers.
To conclude today’s sermon, I’d like to encourage everyone to layer up (or strip down, if you’re in the southern hemisphere) and get outside. In most cases, Mother Nature won’t kill you
but she might hurt you a little and you’ll get some fresh air and exercise.